Participatory Project

People and common Space - the case of Jakobsplan
Weimar 2009

 The Jakobsplan Student Dormitory has hosted thousands of students since the building was completed in 1972. The dormitory is well known in Weimar, not only as the tallest building of the town, but also because, as an old student dormitory, it is marked by problems such as filth in the kitchens, antiquated or ruined infrastructure and a lack of self-organization in the common areas.

 After getting permission for regular access to Jakobsplan, I began focusing on ways of raising awareness about the problems and finding possible solutions together with the residents. Knowing that asking for people to get involved in a project that has to do with common problems wouldn’t be an easy thing, I decided to use a variety of artistic and non-artistic tools in order to make this attempt more sufficient and attractive to them. Multiple-choice questionnaires, pin boards for comments, mini models and copies of the original architectural plans were available for free usage and interventions by the residents. This playful installation in the kitchen of the first floor (Haus 1) aimed to collect answers and opinions about practical and aesthetic problems that the building has, as well as the improvements needed. In the beginning, my regular presence in the kitchen was a kind of enigma for the students of that floor. During my first visits I felt uncomfortable. The idea of approaching people inside their own living space was a big challenge. I had no connections or any friends in Jakobsplan, so my first concern was to talk to the residents no matter if they lived on the first or on the tenth floor. Eventually, I built relationships with the residents, slowly and naturally. The project aimed to investigate procedural and social aspects towards a better self-organization. My intention was to encourage people to face the problems and convince them that that process could be enjoyable and beneficial for all. In the beginning, I felt that I would have to convince people to participate. Gradually, I realized that there was no need to convince anyone. We were all brought together through a triple purpose: production of relationships, cultural exchange a transformation of the common space.